‘Catastrophic’ flooding, mudslides deep into N.C.

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‘Catastrophic’ flooding, mudslides deep into N.C.

NEW BERN, N.C. – Rivers approached record flood stage and more than 650,000 utility customers were without power Sunday as North Carolina struggled under the crushing fury of Florence, the mighty hurricane diminished to a tropical depression but still pounding the region with unrelenting rain.

The storm has killed at least 11 people in North and South Carolina, authorities said.

Florence has stalled over the Carolinas and was forecast to dump up to 10 more inches of rain in some areas, the National Hurricane Center said Sunday. Parts of southeastern North Carolina could see up to 40 inches before the rain ends Monday. And the damage isn’t confined to the coast.

“These rainfall amounts will produce catastrophic flash flooding, prolonged significant river flooding and an elevated risk for landslides in western North Carolina and far southwest Virginia,” the hurricane center warned.

Sections of two interstates, I-40 and I-95, were shut down due to flooding and debris. Several rivers were approaching record levels, and officials warned that cresting in some areas won’t come until later in the week.

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North Carolina authorities say the flooding from Florence is the worst they’ve ever seen, and it’s not letting up.
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More: Florence: Mayor tells thousands to evacuate or notify next of kin

In New Bern, hundreds of people were rescued from their flood-swamped homes. Evidence of Hurricane Florence’s wrath was sprawled across the lawn of the Patty and Philip Urick’s home on the Neuse River, all but destroyed by violent flooding.

Scores of neighbors faced similar damage after the water crested near the tops of their doorways. As water and debris accumulated, front doors caved in and garage doors ripped apart, sending water into homes and washing out what was inside.

The couple, who moved into their three-story row home 14 years ago, rode out the storm.

“We figured we were safe here on the second floor,” said Philip Urick, 82. “We also surmised the storm was not going to be near as severe as it was.”

Evacuations were still underway in some places. Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin told people living within a mile of the region’s main river, the Cape Fear, or the nearby Little River, that they had until 3 p.m. Sunday to get out.

“If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible,” Colvin said.

In Newport, rescuers were able to reach a flooded animal shelter after the Carteret County Humane Society put out a call for help on Facebook. The Cajun Navy, a group of volunteers in boats, brought two stranded shelter workers, 43 dogs, 80 cats and roughly 15 chickens to safety.

Early Sunday, the storm was centered 20 miles southwest of Columbia, S.C., with winds of 35 mph. The storm was moving west at 8 mph.

Contributing: Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY; Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen Times; The Associated Press

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